‘Lightspeed’ Ahead for SBC

SBC Communications Inc. announced the details of its “Lightspeed” project Thursday, which includes switched digital-video delivery via Internet-protocol TV, telephony service and a 6-megabit-per-second data product delivered through fiber-to-the-node architecture.

The regional Bell operating company said lab and field trials to deliver IPTV to consumers are under way, and it expects to launch full-scale video operations in late 2005.

SBC expects to be the second-largest video provider in its fiber-service areas in five years, achieving 20% market share and surpassing direct-broadcast satellite, in most cases.

“We are not involved in a me-too exercise,” SBC senior executive vice president of IP operations and services Lea Ann Champion said. “Subscribers will be able to control and choose their content without bandwidth.”

The basic FTTN technology will allow SBC to deliver 20-25 megabits of bandwidth per home. That will allow the company to deliver four channels of switched video to four different TVs in the home, video-on-demand, digital-video recorders, interactivity, 6-mbps high-speed-data service and telephone service.

“IPTV far exceeds what’s delivered in the market today,” Champion said.

SBC said it will spend $4 billion on infrastructure and $1 billion in success-based capital to deploy Lightspeed.

VP of networks Ernie Carey said a significant portion of the $4 billion in capital expenditures will replace and refocus ongoing spending for its current network, allowing SBC to stay within the high end of previous forecasts of $5 billion-$5.5 billion.

The FTTN network will be completed by 2007 and serve 18 million homes. SBC plans to continue using its alliance with EchoStar Communications Corp. to target remaining homes that won't be passed by its FTTN plant.